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See also: désuétude



PIE word
PIE word

From Late Middle English desuetude, dissuetude (discontinuance of a practice, disuse),[1] from Middle French désuétude (obsolescence) (modern French désuétude), from Latin dēsuētūdo (discontinuance of a practice or a habit, disuse), from dēsuētus + -tūdō (suffix forming abstract nouns indicating conditions or states). Dēsuētus is the perfect passive participle of dēsuēscō (to make unaccustomed), from de- (prefix having a reversing or undoing effect) + suēscō (to become accustomed or used to; (Late Latin) to accustom, habituate, train) (ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *swé (self) + *dʰeh₁- (to do; to place, put), in the sense “to set as one’s own”).[2]


  • (Received Pronunciation) IPA(key): /ˈdɛswɪtjuːd/, /dɪˈs(j)uːɪtjuːd/, /-tʃuːd/
  • (file)
  • (file)
  • (General American) IPA(key): /ˈdɛswəˌt(j)ud/, /dəˈsuəˌtud/
  • Hyphenation: de‧su‧e‧tude


desuetude (countable and uncountable, plural desuetudes) (formal)

  1. (uncountable) The state when something (for example, a custom or a law) is no longer observed nor practised; disuse, obsolescence; (countable) an instance of this.
    • 1659, Henry More, chapter IV, in The Immortality of the Soul, so Farre Forth as It is Demonstrable from the Knowledge of Nature and the Light of Reason, London: [] J[ames] Flesher, for William Morden [], →OCLC, book III, paragraph 9, page 374:
      And they being in a capacity to forget by reaſon of deſuetude, it will be a nevv pleaſure to them to recall to minde their almoſt obliterate ſpeculations.
    • 1660, Jeremy Taylor, “Rule I. The Conscience is Properly and Directly, Actively and Passively, under Pains of Sin and Punishment, Obliged to Obey the Laws of Men.”, in Ductor Dubitantium, or the Rule of Conscience in All Her General Measures; [], volume II, London: [] [James Flesher] for R. Roiston [i.e., Richard Royston] [], →OCLC, book III (Of Humane Lavvs, Their Obligation, and Relaxation: []), paragraph 13, page 8:
      For whatſoever is derived from the law of God cannot by men admit variety, nor ſuffer diminution, or goe into deſuetude, or be extinguiſh'd by abrogation: []
    • 1674, [Richard Allestree], “Of Boasting”, in The Government of the Tongue. [], Oxford, Oxfordshire: At the Theater, →OCLC, page 168:
      We ſee in all things how deſuetude do's contract and narrow our faculties, ſo that we may apprehend only thoſe things wherein we are converſant.
    • 1717, Alexander Bruce, “Title VII. Of the Various Immunities and Privileges Competent to Soldiers. [Modern Laws and Customs Relating to This Title.]”, in The Institutions of Military Law, Ancient and Modern: [], Edinburgh: [] [H]eirs and successors of Andrew Anderson, →OCLC, paragraph 20, page 213:
      Yet ſome of the Privileges [of soldiers] I have mentioned, can certainly take no Place at this Day in any European Nation; ſince they wholly depend upon ſome Roman Conſtitutions and Cuſtoms, that are now every where gone into Deſuetude.
    • 1793, Simon Fraser, “The Case of the Stewartry of Orkney and Zetland”, in Reports of the Proceedings before Select Committees of the House of Commons, in the Following Cases of Controverted Elections; viz. Hellston, Oakhampton, Pontefract, Dorchester, Newark, Orkney and Zetland; Heard and Determined during the First Session of the Seventeenth Parliament of Great Britain, volume I, London: [] J[ohn] Murray, [], →OCLC, footnote, page 415:
      There is no doubt that, by the law of Scotland, an act of parliament may be repealed by deſuetude, or by contrary uſage; but as this is founded on an idea of general aſſent, it is evident that the deſuetude which is to operate as a repeal of a general regulation, muſt itſelf be general; []
    • 1819, Jedadiah Cleishbotham [pseudonym; Walter Scott], chapter I, in Tales of My Landlord, Third Series. [], volume II (The Bride of Lammermoor), Edinburgh: [] [James Ballantyne and Co.] for Archibald Constable and Co.; London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, []; Hurst, Robinson, and Co. [], →OCLC, pages 4–5:
      [W]e of the house of Ravenswood do our endeavour in keeping up, by all just and lawful exertion of our baronial authority, that due and fitting connexion betwixt superior and vassal, whilk is in some danger of falling into desuetude, owing to the general license and misrule of these present unhappy times.
    • 1820 March, [Walter Scott], chapter I, in The Monastery. A Romance. [], volume I, Edinburgh: [] Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, []; and for Archibald Constable and Co., and John Ballantyne, [], →OCLC, page 85:
      These are thing to make modern agriculturists hold up their hands and stare; but the same mode of cultivation is not yet entirely in desuetude in some distant parts of North Britain, and may be witnessed in full force and exercise in the Zetland Archipelago.
    • 1858, Thomas Carlyle, “News of the Day”, in History of Friedrich II. of Prussia, Called Frederick the Great, volume II, London: Chapman and Hall, [], →OCLC, book X, page 619:
      Owing, I will believe, to Fred's sudden flurry in the unprovided moment,—unprovided, by reason of prior desuetudes and discouragements to speech, on Papa's side.
    • 1858, Kenelm Henry Digby, chapter XVIII, in The Children’s Bower; or, What You Like. [], volume II, London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, [], →OCLC, page 205:
      The spirit of that little school is wholly incompatible [with those] who cling to obsolete opinions and customs, and seem to be enamoured with the desuetudes of older times as such, and praising their own former times as vehemently is if they would sell them.
    • 1926, Daniel S[ommer] Robinson, “Preface”, in The God of the Liberal Christian: A Study of Social Theology and the New Theism as Conflicting Schools of Progressive Religious Thought, New York, N.Y., London: D[aniel] Appleton and Company, →OCLC, pages vii–viii:
      The history of Christian doctrine proves that, just as the snake in growing a new skin sloughs off the old, so the Christian consciousness picks its way forward through every narrowing and imprisoning theological construction, breaking its adhesive power and sloughing it off into desuetude.
    • 1959, J[ohn] I[nnes] M[ackintosh] Stewart, “Poor Chowder”, in The Man Who Wrote Detective Stories: And Other Stories, New York, N.Y.: W[illiam] W[arder] Norton & Company, →OCLC, chapter 2, page 182:
      He was an interesting young man and Sir Leonard had been delighted to make the acquaintance of one so authentically (he supposed) of the latest generation. But as a resident colleague amid the undeniably irritating deprivations, inefficiencies, and desuetudes of Great Musters, he frankly left something to be desired.
    • 1991 June 15, European Commission, “Commission Decision of 19 December 1990 Relating to a Proceeding under Article 85 of the EEC Treaty (IV/33.133-A: Soda-ash – Solvay, ICI)”, in Official Journal of the European Union (L (Legislation) Series; 152), Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, →ISSN, →OCLC, paragraph 27, page 6, column 2:
      The alleged desuetude of the 'Page 1000' arrangement did not however manifest itself in any significant change in the commercial policy of Solvay or ICI in the soda-ash sector, either in 1962 or at any later stage.
    • 2011, Marcelo G. Kohen, “Desuetude and Obsolescence of Treaties”, in Enzo Cannizzaro, editor, The Law of Treaties beyond the Vienna Convention, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, →ISBN, pages 351–352:
      [T]he main idea underpinning desuetude is the termination of treaties by virtue of the passing of a considerable lapse of time during which the treaty is not applied by the treaty parties.
    • 2012, Raymond Angelo Belliotti, “Measure for Measure: Law and Order”, in Shakespeare and Philosophy: Lust, Love, and Law, Amsterdam, New York, N.Y.: Rodopi, →ISBN, page 109:
      A host of considerations supported Smisek's claim that she had been wrongly prosecuted: the fornication law had not been enforced for years even though violations had been frequent (desuetude); only teenage offenders were not being charge (denial of equal protection); her medical condition was the basis of the state's claim as other sexually active teenagers who did not become pregnant and sexually active adults were not prosecuted (lack of notice and procedural unfairness).
  2. (countable, obsolete) Chiefly followed by from or of: a cessation of practising or using something.
    • 1663, Robert Boyle, Some Considerations Touching the Style of the H[oly] Scriptures. [], London: [] Henry Herringman, [], →OCLC, page 139:
      [T]he beſt Chriſtians, and (vvitneſs David) the greateſt Proficients in Scripture-Knovvledge, have the keeneſt Stomacks to this Food of Souls; and the vigorouſeſt Piety, by a Deſuetude and Neglect of it, is ſubject to Faint and Pine avvay.
    • a. 1677, Matthew Hale, “The Third Instance of Fact Proving the Origination of Mankind, Namely, the Invention of Arts”, in The Primitive Origination of Mankind, Considered and Examined According to the Light of Nature, London: [] William Godbid, for William Shrowsbery, [], published 1677, →OCLC, section II, page 160:
      Again, ſome Countries were benè morati, well diſciplined in Learning, Arts, and Knowledge, but poſſibly by the Irruption of numerous Armies of Barbarous People, thoſe Countries were quickly over-grown with Barbariſm and deſuetude from their former Civility and Knowledge, and degenerated into the Ignorance and Barbariſm of their Conquerors; ſo that in a reaſonable Period of time much of their ancient Knowledge and Arts was forgotten, as if they never had it.

Related terms[edit]



  1. ^ desuētūde, n.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  2. ^ Compare “desuetude, n.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, September 2021; “desuetude, n.”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.

Further reading[edit]